Regular physical activity and exercise are extremely important for staying healthy, and as we age physical activity and exercise play a key role in staying mobile and independent.
Walking is an everyday activity most people can easily do to stay fit, and usually the only special equipment needed is a pair of walking shoes. A study from the Institute of Aging at the University of Florida indicates that people in their 70s and 80s who regularly walk for exercise are more likely to stay mobile or recover lost mobility than those who stay sedentary.
Walking also helps to maintain healthy weight and blood pressure, it increases muscle strength, flexibility and balance, and it reduces the risk of heart disease, hypertension and falls.
If you are considering taking up walking for exercise the first step is to consult your doctor or physical trainer. They can help you avoid injury and ensure that your walking regime is right for you.
Here are some additional steps to help you stay safe on your walks:
- Warm up before the walk and cool off afterwards.
- Dress appropriately for the weather. Wear comfortable and supportive footwear with non-skid soles.
- Choose a path that is familiar, well-lit, even, and free of debris.
- Hydrate frequently.
- Pace yourself. Start out on short walks and over time increase the distance.
- If you need a cane or walker, use it. Be sure it’s sized to your height.
- Stop or rest if you feel pain during the walk. See your doctor if pain persist after the walk.
- Carry a cell phone or a Mobile Emergency Button in case of emergencies.
- Avoid walking in extreme cold or icy conditions. Be vigilant of slippery walkways during wintertime.
- Walk with friends or in groups.
This guide on fitness for seniors offers more advice on the benefits of exercise and how to safely incorporate a fitness routine into your life.